Museum Students in the Archives: Processing Love and Identity

This month we are featuring some collections processed by the Archival Collections and Museums graduate course that was taught at The Texas Collection by Dr. Julie Holcomb, with assistance from TC archivists. Each student in this class processed an archival collection and wrote a publicity piece promoting that record group. Check out a few of these pieces and learn more about the wide array of TC holdings! (See last week’s posts here.)

Finding Mr. Right

Letter from Lewis Preston to Ella Bachman, 1903 April 5
First page of a 1903 letter by Lewis describing his desire for more mail from Ella. Correspondence between the two would cease before the year’s end. (Bachman family papers #2422, box 4, folder 3, The Texas Collection, Baylor University)

By Matthew Doyen, Museum Studies graduate student

During the first few weeks that the Bachman family papers were in my hands, I found myself transported back 100 years. Ella Bachman Jones, daughter of J.A. and Addie Bachman, lived in Austin and attended the University of Texas. It was during this collegiate period of her life that Ella started to keep letters that interested suitors would send her way. I can’t be certain that she would have been too keen on me reading her mail—but I am only human and couldn’t help myself.

A young gentleman and fellow Longhorn named Charles Pope Caldwell was one of the first of several to actively write to Ella. I must say that early on I was rooting for Charlie, who would soon graduate from Yale Law School and later become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. His letters displayed a strong and true affection for his sweetheart but—as one can convey from Ella’s last name—he was unfortunately not her Mr. Right.

Her next suitor was a very heart-on-his-sleeve type of man who was doomed for disaster. Lewis Preston of Beaumont, Texas, owned his own drug company and was certainly fervent in the pursuit of his darling. Despite pouring out his soul several times, I’m afraid Lewis had little chance at success at being her Mr. Right. Around this time, the turn of the twentieth century, she began a correspondence with Charles Edgar Jones.

Letter from Edgar Jones to Ella Bachman, 1902 January 12
First page of a 1902 letter by Edgar explaining how much he misses his sweetheart. At the time, he resided in Lockhart, Texas, and Ella in Austin. (Bachman family papers #2422, box 3, folder 1, The Texas Collection, Baylor University)

Edgar, as he was known, was from Lockhart, Texas, and owned the Lockhart Water Works with none other than J.A. Bachman, Ella’s father. It was evident from the century-old letters that this relationship—unlike their business—was meant to last. My favorite part of their journey was when they started to scale back their affectionate lines in fear that J.A. would open a letter and read the scandalous words inside. For a period of time, letters were sent almost once—and sometimes even twice—a day! Most of the time they didn’t say much, just a reminder at how much Edgar missed Ella. The letters didn’t stop until—from what I have gathered—the two said “I Do.” Even though Edgar passed away 33 years before his beautiful wife, he was forever Ella’s Mr. Right.

It was interesting looking at this story from entirely one viewpoint. Since none of Ella’s letters are in this collection—all we can do is imagine her waiting for the letters to arrive, tearing open the envelopes, and reading the same pages. It was definitely a treat to work with this collection (which also includes dozens of letters and other materials received by family members) and relive Ella’s love story.

Fight for Identity: A Baptist Personality Crisis

Memorandum from Jonathan Lindsey to the Baptist Heritage Group, 1991 July 19
In 1991, the Baptist Heritage Study group began their efforts to examine Baylor’s Baptist identity and ways to remain intentional about it. The ripples of this group’s efforts can be seen in Baylor’s various vision statements over the past 25 years. (BU Records: Baptist Heritage Study #BU/357, box 1, folder 4, The Texas Collection, Baylor University)

By Amanda Sawyer, Museum Studies graduate student

Throughout the nation in the late twentieth century, religious universities seemed to have lost a sense of who they were. The records of the Baptist Heritage Study show that Baylor University had its own identity crisis in the early 1990s.

A conservative resurgence had been brewing in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) for years and, beginning in 1990, the university began to distance itself from ultra-conservative Baptists wanting to dictate curriculum. A change to the university’s charter—spearheaded by President Herbert H. Reynolds—removed some of the sway which fundamentalists held in school policy.

Despite Reynolds’ intentions to strengthen the university, the move caused some to question Baylor’s Baptist identity. In response, Reynolds formed a subcommittee of the Baptist Heritage Group to research the religious and academic commitments of the university. Led by Associate Professor of Philosophy Dr. Michael Beaty, the committee set out to answer fundamental questions about the influence of religion and denomination upon higher education.

Their early work showed that universities throughout the country were struggling with similar problems. Realizing the issue was bigger than they originally thought, the committee prepared a proposal for a planning grant which was submitted to Lilly Endowment Inc. in January of 1992. After the foundation approved their plan in June, committee members intensified their efforts—including trips to other universities throughout the country considering similar questions.

The committee completed a planning grant proposal in May 1994 which expressed plans for a four-year study of Baylor’s identity. They hoped findings from the study would answer questions about Baylor’s self-understanding as a Christian University in the Baptist tradition while also examining why the charter had changed.

The records—mostly correspondence between committee members—provide a comprehensive view of the university’s fight to balance a strong academic record with denominational ties. Some of the most interesting pieces are messages between committee members as they debate their obligation to tell the trustees about their research. Although the Baptist Heritage Study records conclude with the 1994 grant proposal, it is clear that the group’s research continues to have a lasting impact on the university today.

Museum Students in the Archives: Processing Lawyers and Business Affairs

This month we will be featuring some collections processed by the Archival Collections and Museums graduate course that was taught at The Texas Collection by Dr. Julie Holcomb, with assistance from TC archivists. Each student in this class processed an archival collection and wrote a publicity piece promoting that record group. Check out a few of these pieces and learn more about the wide array of TC holdings!

Guy B. Harrison to Joe L. Wiley (Houghton Mifflin) on behalf of Robert Grundy, 1944 March 15
Among Grundy’s efforts to get his manuscript on Stephen F. Austin published was recruiting the Texas Collection’s own Guy B. Harrison to write a letter on his behalf. (Apparently Harrison had trouble with the typewriter, hence the misspelling of his own name…) Robert A. Grundy papers #30, box 1, folder 1, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Beyond Legal Pursuits

By Courtney Berge, Museum Studies graduate student

The word “lawyer” carries certain connotations. Some people think of paperwork, others shady practices, even more think of good money, nice suits, or the classic TV show, Law and Order. This, however, is not all that any lawyer is. Like anyone else, lawyers have dreams and aspirations beyond their profession. Even though everyone has ideas about the law profession, what do people really know about lawyers? What about the small town local lawyers who are never depicted on TV? What else is there to know about their lives?

Robert Adams Grundy was a small town, local lawyer. Born in Memphis, TX, he graduated from Baylor in 1919 and again in 1930. He worked as a lawyer throughout Central Texas, but ultimately landed in Waco, where he lived until his death in 1973. His papers were donated to Baylor’s Texas Collection, but what one might expect to find in a lawyer’s papers is not what you will find in this collection. The Robert A. Grundy papers include not the business dealings of a lawyer, but the remnants of his dreams as a struggling author. Not only can you delve into his dreams, but you can also catch a glimpse of his family history through the legal and financial documents of the Grundy family.

Grundy wanted to be an author. He completed a few manuscripts, including a biography of Stephen F. Austin and one of Charles Goodnight, both of which can be found in this collection. You can also see the work and effort he put into his writings through the research notes he compiled for his future manuscript on the history of the Jewish people. Sadly, none of his works were published, but you can see the story of the struggle through the rejection letters he filed away.

Within the collection one also finds some of the financial and legal documents pertaining to the Grundy family. These letters, land indentures, deeds, tax assessments, etc. date back into the 19th century and show how a family living in Texas dealt with their roots in Kentucky. They show the business side of managing land in another state.

The Robert A. Grundy papers aren’t the type of collection one would expect from a lawyer. Instead of legal briefs and correspondence you can get a glimpse at the personal aspirations of a Central Texas boy. He was a man who seemingly loved Texas history and history itself, one who wrote books about his passions and hoped to get them published, a man who was more than his profession, and one who has granted us a glimpse into his life.

Tending to the Business of Baylor

History professor J.D. Bragg to business manager George Belew, 1928 June 26
In addition to making reservations for athletics travels and reviewing dining hall menus, Belew apparently also was responsibility for facilities maintenance…and apparently, all buildings didn’t have light fixtures. The letter runs: “Room 205 Main Building is sadly in need of light fixtures. It is impossible on cloudy days for students to read anything on the blackboards or to see clearly to take notes…”

By Chris Paulos, Museum Studies graduate student

It was the 1920s. Prohibition was the law of the land. The air was filled with the sounds of Jazz. Borrowing money to put in the stock market still seemed like a good idea. Two dollars and fifty cents got you reserved seating at a Baylor game.

BU records: Business Affairs Division: Business Manager (George H. Belew) documents the work of George H. Belew at Baylor, while also giving a glimpse into the concerns of the time. Belew was the Business Manager of Baylor University from 1925 until 1931. He would also serve as Secretary and then President of the Baylor Athletics Association and as Secretary to the Baylor Board of Trustees. The collection is broadly divided into two parts. The first contains records of Baylor’s business office, and the second is made up of Belew’s business correspondence.

Among the records are game contracts with Rice University, Texas Christian University, the University of Arkansas, and other institutions. The letters open a window into the behind-the-scenes work which made the football season possible: arranging transportation, taking bids from hotels for rooms and meals (all bacon had to be well drained), finding a good laundry, and hiring officials to oversee the game. One of Belew’s other duties was distributing football tickets by mail. The letters he received alongside the checks form a “Who’s Who” of the wider Baylor community.

The Belew letters are witness to the history of Baylor stadiums, recording the move from Carroll Field to the Cotton Palace in 1926 and the return to Carroll three years later. A 1927 letter from a stadium builder provides a glimpse into what might have been had Baylor not waited until 1950 to inaugurate its own new facility.

Other documents show how daily life at Baylor has changed. Records show that among the employees of Georgia Burleson Hall were several “Matrons” tasked with enforcing the rules of dining etiquette. These rules feel much more at home at a Victorian dinner party than the food court atmosphere of the 21st dining commons. Yet, another concern found in the Belew correspondence is finding positions for prospective students in what we would probably now call work-study jobs. So maybe we’re not so different from our Twenties counterparts after all.

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

Meet Paul Fisher, Baylor graduate (BA 2009, MA 2011), native Texan, and Processing Archivist, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:

From Civil War hospital records, to documents about Baylor’s activities in Independence, to old photographs of early Texans, The Texas Collection has a great deal of fascinating materials. My work preparing archival record groups (groups of records that share the same creator or collector) for researchers means that I get to see all the cool items we have on a daily basis. I have a BA in museum studies and an MA in history, both from Baylor, so “old stuff” definitely fascinates me, especially Civil War-related materials.

James E. Harrison report, 1861, Carter-Harrison Family papers
One of Paul’s favorite documents in The Texas Collection is this handwritten report by Waco native and Confederate general James E. Harrison. The full document tells of his journey to the American Indian tribes in present-day Oklahoma, to see whether they would side with the Confederacy in the American Civil War.

So how do I go about preparing archival record groups for users? This usually includes organizing the collection if needed, rehousing the materials in new acid-free folders and boxes, and writing documents called finding aids to help researchers locate and use them. An increasing part of my job is to help students discover how to do this work well, whether they are student interns, students in a class, or students who work for us.

Much of my work now is devoted to preparing our new archival software system, called Cuadra Star, for launch this summer. For the past 11 months I have led a team of staff and students on a number of projects to get ready for this launch. There have been some challenges to solve along the way, but we address them and continue to forge ahead. Cuadra Star will allow us to find information, organize our collections, and provide better archival service to you than ever before.

One of my favorite activities as part of working at The Texas Collection has been working with a class from the Department of Museum Studies here at Baylor. In fall 2012, Dr. Julie Holcomb taught her annual Archival Collections and Museums class to thirteen students, and as part of the class each student processed one archival record group for use by researchers. The class was taught here at The Texas Collection, and I offered special office hours every week when students would come to work with me on their assigned archives. The project gave them valuable professional experience, and also prepared thirteen of our record groups for use.

A Homegrown Vision: Robert L. Smith and the Farmers Improvement Society" exhibit
The Keeth display case, part of the February 2012 exhibit “A Homegrown Vision: Robert L. Smith and the Farmers Improvement Society.”

We also showcase exhibits on various interesting topics throughout the year, and I have helped with several during my time at The Texas Collection. One of the most interesting was our spring 2012 exhibit, which featured the Farmers Improvement Society (FIS) and R.L. Smith. The society was founded by Smith to help African American sharecroppers in the early 1900s have access to financing for their farms, life insurance, better farming methods, and an agricultural school. Such exhibits help increase awareness of the resources we preserve. More than year after this exhibit was over, we were still receiving questions about our FIS-related records on this blog, and we hosted a research fellow this year who came from New York to spend a week studying these records.

With all of these different projects to work on at The Texas Collection, from working on record groups to planning the next exhibit, every day is different. Yet some things remain the same day to day. Every day is a chance to do more than tell people about history—it is a chance to highlight rediscovered pieces of history from the actual documents written by Baylor and Texas people past and present.

The Texas Collection turns 90 this year! But even though we’ve been at Baylor for so long, we realize people aren’t quite sure what goes on in a special collections library and archives. So over the course of 2013, we are featuring staff posts about our work at The Texas Collection. See other posts in the series here.

From Museums to Archives: A Graduate Student Journey

In fall 2012, The Texas Collection worked with Julie Holcomb’s Archival Collections and Museums class within Baylor’s Museum Studies program to provide hands-on experience with processing archival records. You can read more about some of these 14 collections in Research Ready: December 2012 and the upcoming January 2013 entry, but we thought we’d ask a student to share her archives experience. Guest blogger Danica Galbraith, a second-year Museum Studies master’s student, gives her perspective:

For those who do not know the subtle differences between museum collections and archival management, it would seem that such a jump from museums to archives would not be overly challenging. At least, that’s what my cohorts and I thought when this class began. However, we quickly found that what is done within the walls of the Texas Collection is very different from what we initially envisioned.

James M. Kendrick, Jr., undated (probably 1940s)
Galbraith processed the papers of James Kendrick Jr., a Wacoan, Baylor student, and WWII veteran.

Armed with tentative knowledge about archival processing, ethics, and theory, along with much needed help (and some emotional support) from Dr. Holcomb and Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist at the Texas Collection, we began processing our assigned collections. Some collections were only a few document boxes, while others took up an entire length of a table. Each brought its own complications, roadblocks, and frustrations.

In order to process our collections, we were required to create an initial inventory. Then we grouped and described the records by series based on theme or material type. This differs from museums because in that setting, each item in a collection is given its own accession (or identification) number, and then cataloged or described individually. Another big difference between the two is that in archives, some items are disposed of due to redundancy, condition, or irrelevance. While this is common practice in the archival world, it left our heads spinning!

Personally, I was given the task of processing the James M. Kendrick, Jr. Papers, a records group which initially included five document boxes filled to the brim with random clutter and materials spanning from correspondence to financial productions and everything in between. I would be lying if I said that I was not overwhelmed that first day of processing in late August.

"Principles of Accounting" textbook, owned by James Kendrick, 1940s
Items of interest in Kendrick’s papers include his very worn copy of an accounting textbook, which can be used to learn how business education was taught in the 1940s.

However, I soon found that by operating at a slow and steady pace––taking each box and each material type one at a time––that the collection was not as frightening as I originally thought. Furthermore, as I began to piece the collection together I realized I was learning a lot about Kendrick.

James M. Kendrick, Jr. came from a prominent family within the city of Waco: his great-grandfather fought in the Civil War, his grandfather was an esteemed Baptist minister, and his father was a strong presence in the early Waco business community. However, Kendrick’s records did not focus on grand achievements, nor did it initially scream of overwhelming historical significance. My collection mostly focused on Kendrick’s time as a student at Baylor, and his journey from adolescence to manhood.

Letter of recommendation for James M. Kendrick from Baylor professor Monroe S. Carroll, for application to Naval Reserve, 1942
While Kendrick was going about his schoolwork, he also was looking into possibilities for military service during World War II. This recommendation notes that Kendrick comes from “one of Waco’s most substantial and patriotic families.”

The archives offered very interesting insight into the world of a college student in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and highlights the all too real ups and downs of a Baylor student required to balance school work, campus organizational responsibilities, family life, and friendships. While Kendrick was living during a time torn by WWII, and actually entered the service after graduation in 1943, I felt that, even in 2012, I could relate to many of his daily dilemmas.

Overall, I gained some wonderful experience out of the class, as did my other Museum Studies peers. Not only did we learn some great lessons about archival processing, we also gained some great connections within The Texas Collection, as well as an online publication with our finding aids on The Texas Collection’s website. I urge you all to go take a look at what we accomplished!

By Danica Galbraith, Museum Studies graduate student, Baylor University